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Interview with Peter Roper of Pygmy Children by e-mail November 1997

Kevin: What kind of sound are you going for on the new album? What kind of influence did George of Urania have on the new album?

Peter: Since we began working on the new album quite some time ago and we have discarded so much material in the process of getting it done, it may just be easier to say what the album feels like against our previous releases. Generally speaking, I would describe the sound as being smoother than "Deconstruct". What we did not want to do was create a record that was a mirror image of our last effort. I would describe the overall feel of "Low Life Dream" as being more sarcastic with the lyrics. We used an entirely different array of sounds on this as opposed to the last one, and the speed of the tunes are rather up there, as things seemed to hover around 130 bpm on average. Working with George was a great deal of fun, and he mixed and produced it with our assistance and input, so needless to say, he has a lot to do with the way it sounds overall.

Kevin: I read in one interview that you were hoping to have this album out by late 96. Why has it taken so long to actually get released?

Peter: Well, long story there. Basically we were really picky about everything while working on this. I don't think there is a song on the album that wasn't in its eighth or ninth generation of changes by the time we were complete; although the one instrumental 'Transit' was done spur of the moment in the studio in a couple of nights. Also, I would have to say that we threw about 30 or so songs into the future used or side project bin as some stuff just did not fit in with the tone we were seeking. Sometimes I can't believe how long it took, but it is nice to have it done and now we can focus on other aspects like live dates or remixes.

Kevin: Did you have the same problem recording this album as you did with "Deconstruct" (synch problems and loss of your patches)?

Peter: NO!!! Thank god or whoever for that. The only problem we had this time was after mixing here at our studio, the mixes were sounding a little thin, so we moved the operation over to Track-in-the-box (George's studio) to start over. He was more comfortable with the sound of his room and such, and it really did flow smoother and sound better from that point on. Minor compared to losing a ton of patches out of a synth which is what happened on the last album.

Kevin: Are you happier with the recording engineer aspect of the new album since you had a lot more time to work on it? Are you happy with George as a producer? Is he doing the engineering work as well or is that something that you mainly do?

Peter: Yes, us pygs are happy with the way it sounds, and if taking a lot of time to achieve that is the way to go, so be it. Patience was needed because many times we just wanted to be finished and remove this thing hanging above us, but just taking a step back and thinking things out can be a really good idea. Basically, it's best to be patient than to try and force anything. As far as George as the producer, All I can say is, George is the man! It was an incredible amount of fun throughout the course of the recording and mixing process -- I really think that is important to say. Obviously, without a doubt, he's a totally top-of-the-line guy to work with, a pleasure to watch and learn from, and I'm happy we are good friends and share ideas and such on music. I think between George, Brian, and myself the record was produced. George did all the engineering because if I did it, it would have ended up a bit too over-the-top, as I tend to get carried away with volume levels.

Kevin: Do you plan on doing any live dates or a small tour after the new album comes out?

Peter: Yes we do. At least a few shows; hopefully some sort of small tour. I'm sort of tired of just thinking about it, I wanna jump around and behave like a maniac.

Kevin: Do you incorporate your graphical abilities into visuals for a live show? What is a live Pygmy Children show consist of? Have you gotten a live drummer for shows yet?

Peter: Up to this point, no, but I'll be studying 3-d/digital video stuff soon, so who knows! As for our live show I guess it depends on which of the few we've done to base this off. I can definitely say I have no plans to slice my arm open and bleed all over the stage as I've done before. What we want to be is energy. We have some people who will be doing crazy lights for us, and as I said before, I can jump around and do the vocals and generally be crazy, while Brian can stand tall playing the keyboards looking cool. We want a show to be a lot of fun; exhausting but fun. We have a drummer who will play live with us, al-x , who is playing the acoustic drums with me on a track on the new record.

Kevin: Do you plan on doing any videos for the new album? Will Cheryl still be the one doing them? Did you have any input (i.e. storyline, visuals) for the one she did for you before?

Peter: Yes we do. We are waiting to find if a budget will be provided, and Cheryl will be at the controls again. The video for 'Recoil' from "Deconstruct" was an idea she originally came up with, but we all contributed to it. We can't wait to get moving an that.

Kevin: What kind of feedback have you received from listeners about your work? What was your reaction to the FLA comparisons on your earlier albums (Facedown & Malignant)?

Peter: It's really nice to get feedback from the people who listen to our music. We have gotten a lot of enthusiastic responses from all over. Nobody has written us to tell us how much they think we suck or anything like that, but that's probably just luck. Seriously though, it's cool to get email from someone telling us how much the music we do means to them, and how they can relate to what we are saying. As to the FLA comparison thing, it's kind of hard for me to fully understand; but of course, I can't be objective, so if it's printed in a magazine, it has to be true. All I can say, is that there are some comparisons that can be made (thick sound, etc.), but overall our approach is really quite different from theirs.

Kevin: How do you go about creating new sounds? Is it mainly the role of one person or do you both like to create new sounds?

Peter: As far as any of the roles of who does what in Pygmy Children goes, there are no defined roles. One way we use to create new sounds, is running various synths through a FX unit to a DAT, and recording whatever happens; then go back and find bits to use. Sometimes it works to limit the sound tools to a mic, a pair of drumsticks, and a sampler and finding out how many different sounds you can create. I don't think there should be rules to sound; whatever works, do it. And I really do not think that having a ton of gear is the answer; a sampler with some RAM and a microphone is a great starting point. We try to experiment a lot with sounds. As far as creating patches on synths, it really just depends on what sound we need, then it's just a matter of knowing how to use the gear to create the texture. Sometimes random patch generation can do some crazy stuff.

Kevin: Do you still use a large number of tracks when creating a song? Do you feel that gives a fuller feeling to the songs you make?

Peter: We use up a lot of tracks on the sequencer, but only when the situation calls for it. Almost all the time when working on music, I try not to dictate what should happen in the song. There is definitely all this energy floating about when a track starts moving, and I find it's best to just ride that as long as I can to hammer out the core of the song. Going back later, we'll try adding more things in and if it works--cool, but if having a large amount of shit going on is all the song is about or saying, it becomes irrelevant. So all I am saying, is that it depends on the song. When it benefits to the feel of the piece it is good. Sometimes less is more though, and we try to always consider that as well. Simplicity, when used correctly, is a strength; just as making things unnecessarily complicated can just reduce the quality overall. It always depends on the situation; there is no real black or white sort of answer.

Kevin: Do you mainly build a song and find samples to go with the song or do you find some samples and build a song around it? What are your favourite things to grab samples from?

Peter: This is another one of those instances where there is no clear cut answer, as we prefer things associated with the creation of the song to happen as naturally as possible. One thing that will not be found in any abundance on the new disc is a lot of snippets of dialog from movies. There are maybe two or three, just to punch home a few points, but that's about it. I really enjoy texture, and I'd rather make interesting sounds than do the no-brainer "cool movie sample". There are so many cool things that can be done in a sampler with little more than a pinprick of an audio signal, that it's silly to use it as little more than a tape recorder to say "motherfucker" every so often.

Kevin: Do you have any remixing plans coming up? Are their any bands who are planning to remix your work?

Peter: We are planning to put out a remix CD following the release of "Low Life Dream"; which by the way will not be available until Spring, unfortunately. But there are definitely plans going on inside my head at least. We need to get in contact with some people and arrange all that good stuff.

Kevin: What are your future plans for the band? Do you plan on doing any soundtrack work in the future?

Peter: Well, Brian has been talking again about doing an operatic version of a few selected episodes of Laverne & Shirley, while in the meantime I plan on adopting the trailer park lifestyle, becoming a snake handler, and working on my bluegrass project. Seriously, We have no plans to stop being the pygs anytime soon. We want to keep moving and evolving, not to the current trends, but to where the music can take us. I'd like to work with George Hagegeorge on some sort of project in the future and some other people as well. Soundtrack work would be really cool to do one day; we've been told by many that our music sounds like "something from some movie". Brain & I also have a whole assortment of stuff that didn't get on this new record to sift through and recycle, maybe even turn it into some sort of dub thing side project. Who knows what the future holds?

Kevin: Do you collaborate on what the album is going to look like? What kind of inspiration do you draw from when creating the visual aspect of the album? Do you do any graphic work for other bands?

Peter: Brian is the grafix dude, but the process involves the two of us exchanging ideas much as it happens with music. I think what we try to do with the grafix, is to have the album cover look like, or at least represent, the overall mood of the record. For instance, a bunch of bikini girls on the cover of "Deconstruct" just would not have made sense. Though, in retrospect, maybe it would've sold a ton. I love the stuff Brian comes up with visually, in terms of cover art; it represents the music in a way words could not. Yeah, Brian has done album art for other bands. He did "Of Generation and Corruption" and "Regeneration" by George's previous project Under The Noise. I think he's done others as well, but I can't remember---maybe some death metal band containing some friends we used to know.

Kevin: Your lyrics and vocals bring a strong emotional response to the music. What kind of inspiration do you draw your lyrics from? How has being brothers affected your musical creations?

Peter: We spend a great deal of effort on the lyrics and the impact of the words and the way they actually sound. What was really cool about working with George on this album, was the fact that we recorded the vocals here at our studio, then George would take them to his place and add whatever processing he felt they needed; then we'd get together and put it all back together. The reason I mention this, is the FX George put on the stuff was appropriate to the song. Some songs we left virtually unaffected; but when FX were there, they complimented the words and feel--it has never been FX for the sake of FX. But getting back to the words themselves, we use lots of different processes. Many times the basis will be something scrawled down at a time when things are not that wonderful. Something we tried on a few songs on "Low Life Dream" was the cut-up technique, brought to attention by William S. Burroughs. That process is amazing, in the fact that the seemingly random choosing of words and phrases ends up making sense. But then again, nothing is random and there are no mistakes, huh? A lot of the other stimuli or reason for the words being the way they are, is just the good and the unfortunate that accompany life. I like using language effectively, and we are both habitual users of the metaphor. And yes, we are also guilty of sarcasm. But since we are brothers, we can really tear into each other critically and be somewhat sure not to cause problems. I know if we were not brothers, we most likely would have found reasons not to work together; because we are opposites in many ways, but similar at the same time. It can get confusing, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Kevin: When did both of you first become interested in music? What lead you to create Electro-Industrial music?

Peter: We grew up in an environment that promoted creativity instead of being plopped down in front of the TV set, so I think that was a great help. I remember doing all these Saturday art projects with our mother. I've always liked drums; I started learning how to play when I was 15 and I still drum, with or without a kit. I spent the latter part of my high school years playing in a Speed Metal band, and it was towards the end of that that Brian and I began to work together. I remember him doing a reworking of some of the stuff that that band had recorded (sort of a remix), just using a few tape decks and a record player. Brian has always been into progressive music, where I had kind of wandered around through all sorts of styles until this point. About this time ('90-'91), Brian got me addicted to Ministry and the story kind of unfolds from there. We bought a sampler and began working together, eventually getting to the point where we had written some stuff we felt was ok. We soon threw that away but began working on songs that were to become the "Facedown" EP. And you probably can figure out the rest.

Kevin: Does living in the DC/Baltimore area help or hinder your musical creation process?

Peter: That is pretty hard to say since we haven't lived anywhere else. The grass is always greener elsewhere, but nothing is as comfortable as familiar turf. I really don't think where you are matters all that much; there are talented people everywhere and more often than not, it seems that where the supposed "scenes" are, they are just filled with people who want to be "seen" rather than contribute anything meaningful. I would rather have a few close friends whose musical knowledge and opinions I trust and can find common ground with, than to be some sort of hip dude.

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